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WEEK OF SEPT 11, 2023
What’s Ahead

Christina Koch Space Station 2023.jpg

Astronaut Christina Koch handles equipment for the Cold Atom Lab on the International Space Station, an experiment funded by NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division.

(NASA)

Decadal Survey for Spaceborne Research Set for Release

On Tuesday, the National Academies is releasing its latest decadal survey for biological and physical sciences research conducted in spaceflight environments. The report will provide a budget-constrained roadmap for NASA’s Division of Biological and Physical Sciences, outlining key scientific questions and research priorities for the next 10 years and beyond. With less than $100 million in annual funding, BPS is by far the smallest science division at NASA and is going through major organizational changes. NASA transferred the division from its human spaceflight program to the Science Mission Directorate in 2020 and has focused it on high-priority research related to quantum physics and human exploration of deep space.

NASA charged the survey committee with steering further changes, including by recommending possible “proof-of-concept research campaigns” that would involve a sustained, multi-pronged effort. The survey is also expected to weigh in on how NASA should transition the division’s activities away from the International Space Station, which the agency plans to retire after the end of this decade, and toward future platforms, which may be run by commercial entities. In addition, the survey may consider work that can be done as part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration campaign and through potential interagency and international partnerships. Decadal survey co-chairs Robert Ferl and Krystyn Van Vliet will present key findings and recommendations at a press event on Tuesday morning.

Granholm to Face House Science Committee

With the House resuming work this week, on Thursday the Science Committee will welcome Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for its first hearing of the fall, dedicated to the Department of Energy’s science and technology priorities. Committee Republicans have broadly criticized DOE’s latest budget request, arguing it overemphasizes applied energy R&D at the expense of the Office of Science, especially given that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) are already providing a windfall for clean energy technology. The hearing charter states that committee members are also concerned that priorities such as expanding DOE’s quantum science and technology efforts will not advance as budget toplines fall short of targets set in the CHIPS and Science Act. In addition, the committee has scrutinized DOE’s expenditure of the billions of dollars provided through the IIJA and IRA, particularly following the department’s announcement of a $200 million grant to a battery manufacturing company that Republicans deemed vulnerable to exploitation by the Chinese government. DOE ultimately withdrew the grant, but Science Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) expressed concern that the episode hinted at broader issues with the department’s vetting of awardees.

Congress Accelerates Work on AI

Numerous events dedicated to AI are happening in Congress this week, including the first in a series of “AI Insight Forums” held by the Senate. The Wednesday event will be closed to the public, but it is unclear if later events in the series will be open or closed. The event will include industry leaders such as the CEOs of Meta, Tesla, Google, and OpenAI, as well as labor and civil-rights advocates such as the presidents of the AFL-CIO labor union and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is organizing the forums as a supplement to traditional committee hearings, citing a need to accelerate development of AI regulations.

Meanwhile, four committees are examining different facets of AI regulation this week. On Tuesday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing focusing on ways to increase the transparency and trustworthiness of AI applications, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the latest in its series of hearings on AI. On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on ways to influence AI policy through federal procurement rules and the House Oversight Committee will hold one on how federal agencies are already using AI. White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar will testify at the House hearing alongside officials from the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

In Case You Missed It

Manchin Rick Stevens Sept 2023 AI Hearing

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) shakes hands with Rick Stevens, the head of Argonne National Lab’s Computing, Environment, and Life Sciences Directorate, at a Sept. 7 hearing on artificial intelligence.

(Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP Images)

Manchin Seeks to Expand DOE Role in AI Research

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed support for expanding the Department of Energy’s role in artificial intelligence research during a hearing last week. He said that DOE’s supercomputing resources and experience managing huge data sets give it a “natural leadership” role in AI, and he argued that the U.S. ought to build on efforts such as DOE’s Exascale Computing Project “rather than creating duplicate new programs at other agencies.” Testifying before the committee, Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk reported that the department is proposing a major AI initiative called “Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence for Science, Security, and Technology,” which he said is based in part on a major report published this summer by six DOE national labs. A lead author of the report, Argonne National Lab computer scientist Rick Stevens, also testified at the hearing, arguing that DOE is uniquely suited among federal agencies to lead development of AI systems for scientific and national security applications.

Committee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) expressed general support for DOE working to advance AI but focused his remarks on research security, specifically raising concerns about non-U.S. resident Chinese nationals working at DOE labs. Barrasso asserted that they are “beholden” to the Chinese government and could be coerced into stealing technology, such as through the government threatening their family members in China. In response to a question from Barrasso on whether “the benefit of the work of the Chinese foreign nationals within our labs outweighs the documented risks,” Turk replied that DOE has many protections in place to prevent espionage, including a “risk matrix” that assigns additional restrictions to six sensitive technology areas, one of which is AI. He also emphasized the important role that foreign-born scientists have long played in U.S. research.

DOE Renewables Nominee Withdrawn but Remains in Lead Role

Last week, President Biden withdrew his nomination of Jeffrey Marootian to serve as head of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy following a months-long standoff with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin blocked a committee vote on the nomination in May in protest of DOE’s proposed energy efficiency regulations on gas stoves. Although the committee had advanced Marootian’s nomination during the last Congress, he was not confirmed by the full Senate and the process reset in January. Despite the withdrawal, the Biden administration appointed Marootian as EERE’s principal deputy assistant secretary, the highest role in the office that is not subject to congressional approval.

NSF Announces Four New Science and Technology Centers

The National Science Foundation announced last week that it will allocate $120 million over five years to four new Science and Technology Centers. The new centers will focus respectively on exploring the properties and potential applications of topological acoustics, advancing 3D printing through the study of complex particle systems, developing whole-cell models using quantitative cell biology, and bringing together Western science and Indigenous knowledge to tackle environmental science challenges. NSF has supported the creation of dozens of STCs since it established the program in 1987 as a way to offer large-scale, long-term awards to teams of scientists working on complex problems.

Audit Finds ‘Major Weaknesses’ in NASA Earth Science Program

NASA’s Office of Inspector General released an audit last week that identifies “major weaknesses with project management, mission design and operations, and instrument development” in the agency’s Earth System Science Pathfinder program, which supports low-cost missions within the Earth Science Division. The program currently supports 22 projects with costs ranging from $15 million to nearly $200 million, four of which are facing cost increases and schedule delays that the audit traces to subcontractor disruptions, access to space costs, and project leaders’ inexperience in project management and contracting. One mission, GeoCarb, was canceled in 2022 when its expected cost soared from $171 million to $634 million. The audit found that the project’s academic leader did not have the experience to effectively manage the work of its subcontractor, Lockheed Martin, which the audit notes failed to perform well from the project’s beginning. Aside from project management issues, the report also states that the projects NASA selects have not yet sufficiently addressed societal applications, which have been “loosely required, poorly understood by proposers, and nominally considered during the selection process.”

UK Expanding Fusion Funding, Severing Euratom Link

The United Kingdom will not rejoin the Euratom Research and Training program, the European Union’s nuclear energy R&D research program, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government announced on Sept. 7. Instead, the country plans to spend up to £650 million on nuclear fusion research through 2027. The UK has previously announced plans to spend £220 million on the first phase of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) project, which aims to construct a working fusion plant, as well as £42 million on its fusion industry program and £84 million for operation of the Joint European Torus, an EU-funded, UK-based tokamak research facility that is set to be retired at the end of this year. The UK’s separation from the Euratom program will sever its links to the international ITER tokamak facility under construction in France, though it could potentially rejoin the project as an associate member later. The UK’s move on fusion is associated with the country’s decision last week to rejoin Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship research funding program.

Upcoming Events

All times are Eastern Daylight Time, unless otherwise noted. Listings do not imply endorsement.

Monday, September 11

DOD: Defense Science Board meeting
(continues through Friday)

Department of the Air Force: Scientific Advisory Board meeting
8:00 am - 2:00 pm

NOAA: Science Advisory Board meeting
10:30 - 11:30 am

National Academies: “The Current Status and Future Direction of High Magnetic Field Science in the United States, Phase II” meeting
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Council on Foreign Relations: “U.S. Strategic Competition With China,” with Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krisnamoorthi (D-IL)
1:30 pm

Tuesday, September 12

National Academies: “Panel on Assessment of Energy Sciences,” meeting with the Army Research Laboratory
(continues through Thursday)

Stanford University: Workshop on Nanotechnology Infrastructure of the Future
(continues Wednesday)

National Academies: “Thriving in Space: Decadal Survey for the Biological and Physical Sciences in Space,” report release webinar
10:30 - 12:00 pm

Washington Post: Interview with Senate AI Caucus co-chairs Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Mike Rounds (R-SD)
12:00 pm

National Academies: “Building Capacity to Meet Current and Future Challenges and Needs Facing the U.S. Mineral Resources Workforce,” kickoff meeting
12:00 - 1:00 pm

National Academies: “Global Microelectronics Models for the Department of Defense in Semiconductor Public-Private Partnerships”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

NIST: National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee meeting
2:00 - 3:30 pm

Senate: “The Need for Transparency in Artificial Intelligence”
2:30 pm, Commerce Committee

Senate: “Oversight of AI: Legislating on Artificial Intelligence”
2:30 pm, Judiciary Committee

Hudson Institute: “Quantum Computing and Avenues for US–Japanese Cooperation”
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Wednesday, September 13

National Academies: “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Wildland Fires: A Workshop”
(continues through Friday)

National Academies: “Carbon Utilization Infrastructure, Markets, Research, and Development,” meeting five
(continues Thursday)

National Academies: “NASA Mission Critical Workforce, Infrastructure, and Technology,” meeting ten
(continues Thursday)

NSF: Biological Sciences Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Thursday)

Senate: “Unlocking America’s Potential: How Immigration Fuels Economic Growth and Our Competitive Advantage”
10:00 am, Budget Committee

House: “Oversight of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and Other Efforts to Strengthen National Security in the United States”
10:00 am, Financial Services Committee

NIST: Manufacturing Extension Partnership Advisory Board meeting
10:00 - 5:30 pm

House: “Examining the Methodology and Structure of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Critical Minerals List”
10:15 am, House Natural Resources Committee

CSET: “Running Faster: Boosting U.S. AI Innovation and Competitiveness”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Thursday, September 14

ITIF: 2023 Global Trade and Innovation Policy Alliance Summit
9:00 am - 6:00 pm CEST

House: “An Update on the Department of Energy’s Science and Technology Priorities”
10:00 am, Science Committee

Senate: “Governing AI Through Acquisition and Procurement”
10:00 am, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

House: “Examining Systemic Government Overreach at the Council on Environmental Quality”
10:00 am, House Natural Resources Committee

Bipartisan Policy Center: “Hydrogen Technology Explained and Scaling the Next Generation”
12:00 - 1:00 pm

House: “How are Federal Agencies Harnessing Artificial Intelligence?”
1:00 pm, Oversight Committee

Brookings: “Frontier AI Regulation: Preparing for the Future Beyond ChatGPT,” with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)
1:30 - 2:45 pm

Bipartisan Policy Center: “The Future of AI Governance”
2:00 - 3:00 pm

Friday, September 15

National Academies: “The Current Status and Future Direction of High Magnetic Field Science in the United States, Phase II” meeting
10:00 am - 11:00 am

Monday, September 18

NSF: Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting
(continues Tuesday)

Atlantic Council: “Nuclear Energy Policy Summit: Accelerating Net Zero Nuclear”
(continues Tuesday)

DOE: 21st Century Energy Workforce Advisory Board meeting
10:00 am - 3:30 pm

DOE: Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee meeting
12:00 - 5:00 pm

Know of an upcoming science policy event either inside or outside the Beltway? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

Opportunities

NSF Holding Scientific Integrity Listening Sessions

The National Science Foundation is holding two virtual listening sessions to hear public comments on the implementation of the Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice published by an interagency committee in January. The sessions are on Sept. 15 and Sept. 20. Individuals who cannot attend may submit comments to ScientificIntegrityRFI@ostp.eop.gov.

NOAA Seeking Input on Equitable Delivery of Climate Services

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking input on how it can improve its delivery of climate services to promote equity and ensure users from all disciplines and backgrounds have access to climate data and tools. Comments are due Sept. 21.

DOE Renewables Office Hiring for Senior Roles

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is hiring a director for its Geothermal Technologies Office and a director of strategic analysis. Applications are due Sept. 26 and Oct. 4, respectively.

Know of an opportunity for scientists to engage in science policy? Email us at fyi@aip.org.

Around the Web

News and views currently in circulation. Links do not imply endorsement.

White House

White House: Biden nominates Courtney Diesel O’Donnell as US permanent representative to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
The Intercept: White House cyber and emerging technologies official Anne Neuberger accused of workplace misconduct at NSA in 2014

Congress

Roll Call: Fall session is all about spending, NDAA fights — and ‘Hobson’s choices’ by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA)
Senate Appropriations Committee: Committee leaders announce plans to proceed with first package of appropriations bills on Senate floor
Science: As shutdown looms, will Congress cut spending and restrict research?
Environmental Research Letters: Recent legislation in the US: Consequences for the US and global energy and climate innovation systems (perspective by David Hart)
The Hill: Bipartisan AI framework introduced by Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Richard Blumethal (D-CT)

Science, Society, and the Economy

Issues in Science and Technology: The slippery slope of scientific ethics (perspective by Deborah Poskanzer)
Science: Embed equity throughout innovation (perspective by Keith Wailoo, et al.)
The Conversation: Experts alone can’t handle AI — social scientists explain why the public needs a seat at the table (perspective by Dietram Scheufele, et al.)
Nature: Why Juneteenth matters for science (perspective by Antentor Hinton)

Education and Workforce

NSF: Making visible the invisible: Understanding intersectionality (report)
Physics: What it takes to move the needle on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in physics (perspective by Filomena Nunes)
NSF: NSF awards nearly $14 million for new Hispanic-Serving Institution Resource Centers
Research Professional: UK-US projects to tackle lack of LGBT+ scientists
The Open Notebook: Reporting on sexual misconduct in the sciences (perspective by Humberto Basilio)
CSET: Translation snapshot: Chinese overseas talent recruitment
Science: After historic strike, UC grad students say university isn’t honoring pay agreements

Research Management

Macroscience: Funding against the tide (perspective by Tim Hwang)
Nature: Why a blockbuster superconductivity claim met a wall of skepticism
Science News: Superconductor research surges forward despite mounting controversy
Nature: ‘Just get the admin to do it.’ Why research managers are feeling misunderstood (audio)
Science: German science organizations strike open-access deal with Elsevier
Research Professional: UKRI urged to monitor impact of its open access policy on global equity

Labs and Facilities

NSF: NSF announces $35 million operations award for the new Synchrotron for Earth and Environmental Science facility
NSF: NSF providing $21 million for new Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center (CRESCENT) and Statewide California Earthquake Center
Oak Ridge National Lab: New program to connect entrepreneurs with national laboratory-developed technologies
NASA: Physical science data for all
South China Morning Post: China’s $31 million Mozi telescope ready to train giant eye on night sky

Computing and Communications

CRS: Quantum computing: concepts, current state, and considerations for Congress (report)
HPCwire: Fearing China, US blocks sale of Nvidia GPUs to the Middle East
Wall Street Journal: How the US stumbled into using chips as a weapon against China (perspective by Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman)
Time: The 100 most influential people in AI in 2023
Project Syndicate: Whose AI revolution? (perspective by Anu Bradford)
FedScoop: NTIA looks to modernize federal spectrum management systems as demand for 5G, space commerce skyrockets
Washington Post: Senate confirms Biden’s FCC nominee, breaking years-long deadlock

Space

Space Review: The opportunities and challenges for science at NASA and ESA (interviews with Nicky Fox and Carole Mundell)
Tech Times: NASA’s decision to halt New Horizons mission sparks controversy
GAO: Space Launch System: Cost transparency needed to monitor program affordability (report)
Ars Technica: NASA finally admits what everyone already knows: SLS is unaffordable
New York Times: SpaceX needs to make 63 fixes before next starship launch, FAA orders
SpaceNews: The future of human spaceflight safety is in the hands of Congress (perspective by Michael Lopez-Alegria)
Washington Post: Japan’s H2-A rocket launches, heading toward the Moon to attempt landing
SpaceNews: South Africa joins China’s Moon base project
Space Review: India is on the Moon, but needs to avoid the ‘Moon Race’ trap (perspective by Ajey Lele)

Weather, Climate, and Environment

E&E News: A scientist manipulated climate data. Conservative media celebrated
Heatmap News: An interview with the climate scientist at the center of a scandal
E&E News: Climate impasses could undermine G20 meeting
NPR: Sucking carbon dioxide out of the sky is moving from science fiction to reality
E&E News: As EPA drowns in CCS applications, oil states want to take control
Utility Dive: DOE’s error-ridden analysis on coal carbon capture project threatens climate and engagement goals (perspective by Emily Grubert)

Energy

Power: Environmental justice: What it is and why it’s important to power projects
DOE: Biden-Harris administration announces $150 million to strengthen domestic critical material supply chains
MIT Technology Review: With $400 million loan to battery maker Eos, zinc batteries that offer an alternative to lithium get a big boost from DOE
Science: US bets it can drill for climate-friendly hydrogen — just like oil
World Nuclear News: The challenge of recruiting a rapidly growing nuclear workforce
Financial Times: Governments join race for commercial fusion power
Kyoto Fusioneering: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and Kyoto Fusioneering form strategic alliance

Defense

DOD: INDUS-X senior advisory group holds kick-off meeting
National Defense Magazine: Will US, India pact boost defense innovation?
Exchange Monitor: NNSA mismanaged subcritical explosive testing programs, GAO finds
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Biden’s horse-trading on nuclear technology and fuels is an unprecedented proliferation risk (perspective by Alan Kuperman)
National Academies: US Air Force must invest in AI development, prioritize test and evaluation, says new report
Inside Defense: Defense tech officials see AI, autonomy testing challenges amid ‘Replicator’ announcements
SpaceNews: Space Development Agency solicits bids for 54 missile-tracking satellites
Washington Post: In the US, documentation of UFOs is classified. But not in other countries

Biomedical

Stat: NIH director nominee will get a confirmation hearing next month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says
BMJ: The US quietly terminates a controversial $125 million wildlife virus hunting program amid safety fears
Science|Business: Scientists grapple with risk of AI-created pandemics
Issues in Science and Technology: Training more biosafety officers (perspectives)
Stat: Looking for a climate job? Consider biotech (perspective by Lily Fitzgerald)
Nature: Colombia considers ban on most research and education using live animals

International Affairs

Science: UK finally rejoins Horizon Europe research funding scheme
Research Professional: UK ‘plan B’ alternative to Horizon still on the cards, says Freeman
Research Professional: UK Horizon Europe deal prompts renewed push on Switzerland
Science: UK’s ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research agency starts to take shape
Research Professional: ‘Massive news’ of UK fusion funds hailed on both sides of Channel
Science|Business: New research commissioner Iliana Ivanova swears to protect Horizon Europe budget in Parliament hearing
Science|Business: Ivanova’s to-do list: Time to lay the foundations for the next EU research program
Research Professional: Morocco and Egypt signal interest in CERN membership
The Hill: We must end the experiment of science cooperation with China (perspective by Alexander Gray)

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